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Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome

Swallowdale (original 1931; edition 2004)

by Arthur Ransome

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1,1651612,393 (4.16)37
The Walker family endures a shipwreck, discovers a secret cave and valley, builds a camp on the mainland, and goes hiking in the mountains.
Authors:Arthur Ransome
Info:CAPE JONATHAN (RAND) (2004), Hardcover, 448 pages
Collections:Your library

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Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome (1931)


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There's a reason Swallowdale is a classic. It's a very well written book.
It's one of those novels where nothing happens on a grand scale - afterwards, you wonder what the plot was - and then you realise the difference between having a plot and telling a good story.

Lots of things happen in Swallowdale, but they happen on a smaller scale. More like a series of episodes. The images that linger in the mind are Titty and Roger exploring, and inventing their own rules as to how to explore, how to avoid inconvenient things like roads, how to leave secret signals, etc. Or Titty meeting the woodsmen and riding on the timber haulage

Sometimes, it's the setting, and the realisation of how far it now is in the past. It's a world where cars are still few and far between: where milk comes in a jug, not a tetrapack; where timber is extracted from woods and hauled out be horses; where a shipyard has steam boxes for bending planks. The Lake District is less crowded and there's a feeling of space which would be hard to imagine now.

1930, when the book was written, is less than a century ago, and yet is different in so many ways. ( )
1 vote JudithProctor | May 26, 2019 |
The Swallows and Amazons return for another instalment of blissful fun, camping and exploring in the Lake District. A year on from the events chronicled in ‘Swallows and Amazons’, the Walker children come back to the Lakes, expecting to camp once more on Wild Cat Island along with their friends Nancy and Peggy Blackett, known as The Amazons. Things do not go to plan.

On their first outing of the year, an accident befalls the Swallow, the dinghy adopted by the Walkers, leaving them having to take on the role of shipwreck survivors. Meanwhile the Amazons are beset with family duty. Their great aunt, who brought up their mother and Uncle Jim (better known as Captain Flint) has returned to the family house, and Nancy and Peggy are required to be on their best behaviour which means acting like young ladies rather than running wild and wreaking havoc in their customary tomboy way.

Ransome’s writing is as masterful as ever, combining superb children’s adventure stories, in excellent clear prose, while managing to eulogise the pursuit of an outdoor life without ever sinking into sanctimony. His own imagination was clearly powerful, and he imparts this enthusiasm to his characters, both adults and children. He never patronises the children, either the characters or his readers. Widely read himself as a boy, he clearly expects a similar literary background from his readers.

Like John Buchan’s novels, written at similar times, Ransome’s books are easily parodied now as representing a very middle class, anodyne perspective on life. That is, however, unfair (both to Ransome and to Buchan). They both wrote with effortless lucidity, and understood the nature of adventure. The Walkers are certainly middle class, but the children all interact perfectly politely and naturally with all the ‘natives’ (i.e. locals) whom they meet, including farmers, charcoal burners and loggers. There is never any hint of awareness of any class divide.

Arthur Ransome’s books do hark back to a different world, on that is now long gone, though I suspect that that was true even at the time they were first published, between the World Wars. Like Buchan, he may be invoking a golden or Corinthian age largely of his own imagining, but that does not make the books any less magical. Well over forty years since I first read it, ‘Swallowdale’ remains a delight. ( )
2 vote Eyejaybee | Nov 20, 2016 |
A good follow-up to "Swallows and "Amazons" -- and, for this landlubber, even easier to understand. I love all the adventures and the spunky personalities, as well as the wonderful humor. (The mentions of the great-aunt are particularly horrible and hilarious.) If one could go back in time, though, I'd ask Ransome to edit the scene of Titty preparing the voodoo doll, since the language she uses is offensive and could easily be dispensed with. At least modern-day parents can counteract that bit of racism when reading it to their children. ( )
  bostonian71 | May 15, 2016 |
Good clean copy, but spine coming away from binding
  chilperic | Sep 1, 2014 |
I own a paperback and hardcover.

  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ransome, Arthurprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bukowska, HerminaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carter, HeleneIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guillemot-Magitot, G.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palosuo, MainiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Webb, CliffordIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Webb, KayeEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"A handy ship, and a handy crew, Handy, my boys, so handy: A handy ship and a handy crew, Handy my boys, AWAY HO!"

Sea Chanty
To Elizabeth Abercrombie
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"Wild Cat Island in sight!" cried Roger, the ship's boy, who was keeping a look-out, wedged in before the mast, and finding that a year had made a lot of difference and that there was much less room for him in there with the anchor and ropes than there used to be the year before when he was only seven.
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The Walker family endures a shipwreck, discovers a secret cave and valley, builds a camp on the mainland, and goes hiking in the mountains.

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